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Above: The Old Spotted Dog ground ahead of refurb - © photog/Clapton CFC Flickr

Clapton CFC: “Fans will set the direction of the club”

Every week we’ll be looking in more detail at one of our Sustain The Game! key principles and this week it’s “Protect our clubs” – we believe football clubs are community assets and an important expression of individual and local identity, they deserve legal protection and urgent support to secure their future.

Today we hear from Clapton Community FC about how their supporter-owned model has served to protect their club…

If you’re not familiar with Clapton Community FC, a member-owned non-league football club in east London, they have a great story – a small club who have an innovative approach to transparency and involve their supporters in a pretty groundbreaking way.

But you may have noticed there are two clubs with Clapton in their name, why is that?

“There is another club out there with Clapton in its name,” says Kevin Blowe, treasurer of Clapton CFC. “But we were effectively shut out of that club, so had to come up with an alternative.

“As supporters we couldn’t get any answers to any of our questions. We were the ones keeping the club alive but couldn’t find out anything about what they were planning or doing with our money.”

Back in 2018, when the owner of Clapton FC refused to speak with fans, supporters founded the community club in response.

Since then the growth of the club has been phenomenal – driven mainly by the enthusiasm of supporters for the club and its engagement with the local community.

COVID-19 has not dampened that enthusiasm as the club has grown to 1,400 members who helped raise £40,000 for club coffers during the pandemic. That kind of momentum no doubt helped them complete the purchase of the Old Spotted Dog ground earlier this summer.

It is the oldest senior football ground in London and has been the spiritual home of Clapton supporters for more than 130 years – now for the first time in their history those supporters own the ground. 

Kevin said: “Bringing Clapton’s spiritual home back into community use, after a season of boycotts of Clapton FC home games when it was placed into liquidation by the previous tenant, was absolutely central to the motivation for setting up Clapton CFC back in the summer of 2018.

“Finally having a ground of our own, owned by members, will offer long term stability for the club and also the chance to build lasting links with the local community.”

And Clapton CFC’s model is an important part of its success. Unlike other clubs, they do not have a standard and traditional top down board that oversees the club. 

Instead, Clapton CFC have established a number of semi-autonomous committees drawing on a wide range of experience and expertise across the supporter base – and transparency runs through all of their work.

“We’ve done away with the position of chair,” Kevin says. “There’s no need for it. We encourage our members to help us run the club.

“We’re committed to being open – our argument is that the more eyes you have on an issue, the more questions being asked, the more likely you are to spot problems that might develop down the line.”

Clapton CFC’s success shows that an alternative model to rich benefactors is out there and is viable and Kevin says The Ton’s ownership model should protect the club for the long term.

“The way we’ve created the constitution makes it nigh-on impossible for a ‘white knight’ to ride in and take over the club. It’s up to us – our members will always be responsible for the direction of the club.”

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